We are two sisters based in Dubai who couldn’t find truly healthy chocolates despite our many travels. Delicious there were many, but healthy? Not really. So together, with our then-sixty-eight-year-old diabetic mother, we traveled to the beautiful island of Mindanao, Philippines to study the main ingredient of chocolate: cacao. We learned how to plant, prune, and harvest from cacao trees and ferment its beans. On this trip, we became friends with farmers, agriculturists and government workers who opened our eyes to the realities of cacao farming. We became cacao doctors in 2016, sowing the seeds of what we didn’t expect would blossom into a full-blown agricultural social enterprise just months later—an enterprise that supports and educates cacao farmers in the Philippines. We called it OFW para sa Magsasaka, or OPM (Overseas Filipinos Supporting Filipino Farmers). Together with other angel investors, we rolled out supporting twenty hectares in mid-2016. It is an understatement when we say our lives have never been the same since! Luchie was in digital telecoms, Iman was ex-physical therapist who went into the fitness industry and turned businesswoman, and Mama Irene a retired cook. Our little world became so much bigger!
Today, we have 42 impact investors from the UAE, Philippines, Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait, Great Britain, Brazil, and USA all rooting for our farmers and our healthy chocolates. With them, we have co-created the agricultural blueprint of our chocolatey dreams for the next ten years. Together with these kindred spirits, we created a community and we are committed. We are for cocoa farmers. We are for fine cocoa. We are Co Chocolat.
Our maître chocolatier, Luchie, is not only the head of our chocolate products but as a true cacao doctor, she also heads post-harvest processing to create community-wide protocols for cacao fermentation, drying and roasting. Though a graduate of hotel and restaurant management, Luchie worked in a telecommunications advisory and private equity firm for over a decade in Dubai before she finally followed her true passion – chocolat (as her favorite movie is Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche’s Chocolat). She gained the title of Maître Chocolate Maker from Ecole Chocolat (Professional School of Chocolate Arts) after successfully completing chocolate-making from bean to bar in the USA and her chocolate bonbons program at Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in Tain-l'Hermitage, France.
Luchie is also the one who gains weight the fastest in the family, though she is the triathlete; able to swim a couple of kilometers in open water, bike thirty kilometers and run half-marathons. Every day for her is a fight not to eat too much. For her, Co Chocolat is the offspring of this constant battle against her sweet tooth. Today, Luchie creates beautiful bon-bons and chocolate recipes, whipping up healthy chocolatey recipes for herself, her family and now the community.